Flu shot/health/vaccination (224085)
Flu shot/health/vaccination Credit: Public Domain/CDC/Judy Schmidt/Public Health Image Library

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed an executive order allowing pharmacists to distribute flu vaccines to children from ages 2 to 18.

The order, signed Jan. 25, is part of a statewide effort to combat this year’s flu epidemic, which is already stacking up to be one of the worst in a decade.

“It’s been especially bad this year,” AdvantageCare Pediatric physician Geeta R. Bhattacharya told the AmNews. “Lots more children are coming down with the flu. It’s mostly kids who were not vaccinated previously, but it’s bad in general. I haven’t had to send anyone to the hospital, but there have been casualties this year in New York State.”

This year’s “flu season” has seen the hospitalization of some 1,759 New Yorkers. Across New York State, there are 7,779 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases and 45 more states across the nation have shown elevated numbers of flu hospitalizations and deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already stated that this year’s flu outbreak is the worst on record since the swine flu pandemic of 2009.

To encourage New Yorkers to get vaccinated, Cuomo has issued his executive order, which allows pharmacists to immunize youth under 18 years of age, something they are not normally authorized to do. Parents and guardians are encouraged to take advantage of the new executive order and get vaccinated. “With flu cases reaching epidemic proportions in New York, we must do everything in our power to fight this virus and keep New Yorkers safe,” Cuomo said.

But be sure and call your local pharmacist if that is where you are planning to try to get a flu shot. “Most pharmacies have run out of supplies of the vaccine,” one employee at a CVS pharmacy in Downtown Brooklyn told the AmNews. She asked to remain anonymous. “You might be able to find it at a small, mom-and-pop pharmacy, but for the most part you should just go to your doctor. They’ll have the vaccine on hand.”

“The pharmacies probably ran out because they started vaccinating early this year,” an AdvantageCare nurse confided. “We started in September, and next year they’re saying we’re going to start doing immunizations in August. It can’t hurt to get the vaccine because there’s a lot of mutations and stuff going on out there now. It can’t hurt to be protected.”

To find a flu vaccine location near you, check the website VaccineFinder.com.